Bass height: Arco vs Pizz

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by pmad_bass, Feb 3, 2013.


  1. pmad_bass

    pmad_bass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2004
    Location:
    Maryland
    Hi all.

    I have a 7/8...which is arguably just slightly too big for me....at least I think so. I was wondering if folks find that the height they use for arco is less optimal for pizz (and/or vise versa). For me I find that I like the bass/end pin set higher for arco than I do pizz.
  2. Paul Barsic

    Paul Barsic

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
    I did at first, but I think that was a technique thing. I figured out a bass height and position that work for arco, and then made that work for pizz. I have moved my right hand toward the bridge for pizz, so now it's right at the end of the fingerboard when I make contact with the strings. I'm playing a 3/4 with gut strings, but I might have a different opinion if I were playing with some stiffer strings or a larger bass.

    What is the thing that makes the different heights optimal? Is it physical discomfort?
  3. Hector Wolff

    Hector Wolff

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2003
    Location:
    East Norwich, Long Island, NY
    Paul,

    It sounds like you are describing a bass height that is actually too low for good arco tone.

    If your hand falls naturally so you can pizz at the end of the fingerboard, then if you were holding a bow naturally (without reaching downward from the shoulder), you wouldn't be able to bow an inch or two below the end of the board, which is a good rule of thumb for good volume and tone for notes in the lowest positions.
  4. pmad_bass

    pmad_bass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2004
    Location:
    Maryland
    Actually it may be the inverse....or at least that is how I perceive it. I notice that due to the size of the bass (and the size/shape of the upper bout....and my technique/positioning) that it is more comfortable/easier to reach into thump position with the end pin set a good bit higher. I haven't really payed attention to what it did to the tone for arco but it really kills the tone for pizz....so probably does the same for arco. It is not so bad to play pizz when I have it set like that, just no tone.....and I have the bass at more of an angle (to reach upper ranges/T-position) when it is set this high as opposed to how I normaly would have it for pizz. I usually set it like this for arco so that it is earier to reach T-position and so that there are less cotortions with right shoulder trying to get bow closer to the bridge.

    Another issue that may (that works against me re: Pizz)...ir that the finger board is a bit long. Likely cut (flush) so that if could long enough so that one coule elect to have that differentiated detail cut into it (don't know the technical term), whereby there is more finger board under D & G and less so under E & A.
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  6. Hector Wolff

    Hector Wolff

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2003
    Location:
    East Norwich, Long Island, NY
    I was only referring to the effect end pin setting has on getting the bow in the optimal range of contact with the strings. If it is too low then you can't the bow comfortably into the range that will allow for a good tone and volume as you play up the strings. If it is too high you are naturally contacting the strings too close to the bridge and have to unnaturally lift hand and bow upward closer to the fingerboard, resulting in a larger than normal bend in the elbow.

    To me it is about getting the body in an optimal relationship physically with the instrument. Getting your fingers and/or the bow to be comfortably in the right place for best sound, without having to force it. Finding a comfortable height to allow getting into and out of thumb position on basses with broad shoulders and deep ribs, certainly complicates things.

    I don't think that the mere fact that bass is higher or lower in itself has any effect on volume or tone - unless we are talking about the effect that more or less end pin, sticking up inside the bass body, may or may not have on volume and tone.
  7. bassist1962

    bassist1962

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Have someone hold your bass vertical & you stand in front of the bass with your hand at you side, the bridge should be even with the knuckles of your hand. This is my rule of thumb for height of the instrument & gives me decent tone either arco or pizz.
  8. Hector Wolff

    Hector Wolff

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2003
    Location:
    East Norwich, Long Island, NY
    For me, if I do as you suggest my second joints (from the tips) are even with the bridge - is that the joint you mean?

    I prefer to simply hold the bow naturally and let it fall against the strings and adjust the bass from there. I find it much easier to adjust my pizz that my bowing.
  9. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2004
    Location:
    Seattle
    I also have a slightly different optimal height for pizz vs arco. For me to have a comfortable posture and also have my right hand and arm in the best location to get the sound I want, I like to have the bass about an inch higher for arco. Seeing as the vast majority of my gigs focus on pizz, I usually set it for this and compromise on the arco. If I have classical gigs, I raise it up.
  10. bassist1962

    bassist1962

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Yes, the mid finger joints.
  11. bassist1962

    bassist1962

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Please excuse my ignorance, but wouldn't this approach mess with the muscle memory of the left hand?
  12. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2004
    Location:
    Seattle
    It doesn't seem to bother my left hand much, intonation-wise at least. Not surprisingly, though, having the bass higher does make thumb position a little easier and half position a little more tiring.

    I'm also used to playing on all sorts of different basses, which probably helps keep my left hand technique from being too dependent on the physical position and size of a particular bass. I actually think it's good to play different basses with different string lengths, D vs Eb necks, etc. That way you use your ears more than your muscle memory to get to the notes. I remember once seeing a guy with great physical technique put his finger exactly where he "knew" a note should be, played and when the note was out of tune, looked at the rest of us like we were crazy and playing horribly. Eventually he discovered that his string had gone out of tune...
  13. Paul Barsic

    Paul Barsic

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
    That is what I was trying to say, but reading my post, it's not what I said!

    I used to play with the bass too low. I raised the bass for better arco, and in the process my right hand was moved closer to the bridge. I am happier with the response from my instrument.

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